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Nestor Schmajuk

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Nestor Schmajuk Obituary
Nestor Alberto Schmajuk

November 23, 1948 - February 16, 2015

Palo Alto, California

Nestor Schmajuk died on Monday, February 16, in Palo Alto, California.

Nestor was born in Argentina in 1948 to Norberto Schmajuk and Carolina Schachter, Polish immigrants who fled to Argentina before the start of the second World War. Nestor had a younger sister, Monica, and grew up in Buenos Aires, where he made trouble in school, played soccer, and organized movie clubs for his friends. His uncle Salomon Schachter was a great influence on him. He studied electrical engineering, worked at his father's wheel factory, Pulmania, and met his future wife, Mabel Tyberg. He became an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Buenos Aires.

In 1981, Nestor and Mabel and their two daughters, Gabriela and Mariana, moved to Binghamton, New York, for Nestor to pursue a fellowship in neuroscience. After two years in snowy Upstate, the family moved to western Massachusetts. In 1986, Nestor obtained a doctorate in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts and became a postdoctoral fellow at Boston University. From 1988 until 1993, he was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Northwestern University.

The Schmajuk family moved to Chapel Hill in 1993. Nestor became a professor at the Duke University Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. He taught there for more than 20 years. His professional interests focused on developing and testing neural network models of classical and operant conditioning, animal communication, creativity, and spatial learning. He authored 4 books on animal learning and founded the Society for Computational Modeling of Associative Learning.

Nestor loved Schubert and Dvorak, Johnny Cash, Car Talk, playing the recorder, and brushing his teeth. He taught his daughters that girls can do anything and that they should avoid carrying a purse. He was a clown and always the contrarian. He had a habit of tossing a glassful of water across the dinner table if anyone had a particularly funny wisecrack. He took a nap at the movies every Saturday night and was a chronic whistler.

In 2012, Nestor suffered a stroke, but fulfilled his dream of retiring to California to be near his family and only grandson, Henry.

A memorial service in North Carolina will be held in the spring, time and place to be determined. Please email [email protected] to receive an announcement.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Duke University (for line: c/o Department of Psychology & Neuroscience), and mailed to Trinity College Development, P.O. Box 90429, Durham, NC 27708.
Published in The News & Observer from Feb. 23 to Mar. 1, 2015
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